Oh my gosh! I did not expect to love this movie! When I first saw the previews for The Mitchells vs. the Machines, I expected nothing- it looked so bland, forgetful, and catering to all the modern trends of today. But then I saw the rave reviews, and I just thought, “HOW???” Then I watched it, and oh boy, it’s got to be one of the funniest movies I have ever seen!
Yet with this being an animated movie about phones and families, it expectedly is packed full of pop culture references that will grow dated pretty fast, such as ones about the dad not understanding how simple technology works. Building upon that sporadic humor are two broken robots who join the family in their quest to save the world, and they unfortunately take up too much screentime. These robots are a part of this robot apocalypse that creates what is essentially Skynet 2.0, with a single guy who loses control over a massive technological corporation he created, and the robots from that corporation igniting war on the humans, trying to eradicate them from the earth. Although recycled, this plot is updated with the commentary on our excitement about the growing intelligence of our pocket devices. But at the same time, it’s not saying we’re better off without technology, as without it, people like those who worked on this movie wouldn’t be able to communicate with others who need to listen.
It also has the overused trope of a father trying to make his family get off their glowing screens to enjoy nature, which doesn’t fully work here because the dad doesn’t have an apparent relationship with his son to make it complete. While the entire film centers around his bond with his daughter, there’s nothing to say about his bond with his son. Rather, the plot revolves around the girl, Katie, who is ready to start her first year at the California College of Film, but she has relationship problems with her dad. She wants to learn how to create movies, he doesn’t see the purpose of it, and he is also anticipating a bad case of empty-nest syndrome. They don’t see eye-to-eye, but Dad has one last chance to make things up to her, ergo, he cancels her flight to film school in favor for a family road trip, where they end up being the saviors of the robot apocalypse. While on this mission, the family rides in a burnt orange 1993 Station Wagon, the last type of vehicle you’d expect to go against a robot army, as if this is the final showdown between the baby boomers and generation z.
Holding all the insanity of the film together is a unique animation style; the opening credits take over the film studio logos with sketchbook drawings, and these unfold into live action photographs that appear straight out of social media, only to take you into the not-so-traditional-computer-animation with backgrounds that look like something students would work on in Photoshop class. The characters are outlined with rotoscoping markings, whereas their photographs are strictly hand drawn.
If that weren’t enough, all throughout are little bits of the sketchbook drawings used the same way you would use emojis in an Instagram post. You see tiny little dinosaurs pop up briefly whenever Katie and her brother do their secret handshake, you see hearts for a moment when somebody hugs another, and it even goes to the extent of throwing a cat filter over a character’s face. You could really tell that the people working on this had an awful lot of fun on it! Like really, it’s so detailed, it even includes the autocorrect while someone is typing a text message!
That’s another thing that’s so clever about this absurd little movie: it’s so self-aware about the fact that it’s a movie about itself. It’s even said in the end credits just how personal the project was to those involved, which you could easily imagine with this being about how most filmmakers got their start. They all see themselves as misfits and weirdos who came from weirder misfit families. Thus, that means even supposed nobodies like you and me can someday make a movie like this!
This is the type of scenario for a film that makes an absurd joke-a-second approach to comedy actually work, since it’s grounded enough into our modern problems. Yet the funniest part of this entire movie is the one with those creepy Furby toys that are now making a comeback. The way they’re used are so hilariously terrifying, revealing them for being the true denizens of Hell that parents have always seen them as!
There are plenty other jokes that stand out, such as whether a pug is a dog or a pig or a loaf of bread; it is hilarious when used at first, but becomes way more uproariously so in the way it comes back as a critical plot point, further showing just how weird the Mitchell family is. But hey, that’s the kind of family they are, that includes the dad who gave up on his dreams of living in a log cabin, or the brother who’s a little too obsessed with dinosaurs, or the mom who envies the perfect social media life of another mother. But here’s the really funny thing… the weirdness of this family is presented in a way so that you could even see your own family’s weirdness in this cinematic family’s weirdness; you totally understand why Katie compares her father to a gibbon.
It’s amazing how something so seemingly goofy and childish can also be so profound in how it says loved ones can come closer together even while living in a technological age where glowing screens are mandatory for communication. It manages to say how we’re better off without the rules given to us by pop culture because living for the spontaneity of family is what will allow us to find our ultimate purpose. So please, please, please watch The Mitchells vs. the Machines. It’s so much fun to watch, and it’s even perfect for the whole family, both the parents and the kids just might learn something from it!
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!